St. Lawrence University
Wyatt Adams, SLU '18

 

Vienna’s left-leaning culture of political activism is heavily informed by the city’s experience of fascism during the Second World War and by the rise of far-right nationalist groups in Austria and across Europe during the last thirty years. As a result, antifascism plays a significant role in many facets of politics in Vienna. Today, antifascist groups, also known as antifa, use a range of tactics to comment upon or take direct action against racists, Nazis, fascists, xenophobes, capitalists, and others. One of the most notable antifa tactics is the “demo,” or public demonstration, where it is common to witness large-scale marches or rallies that halt mass transit and automobile traffic in the center of the city.

Antifa groups have organized events such as an Eat the Rich demonstration in opposition to Vienna’s annual Opernball dance event where some of the world’s wealthiest individuals indulge in opulent amenities. Another recent event was the People’s Climate March in Vienna on April 29, 2017, in which an estimated 2,500 people marched concurrently with hundreds of thousands of others around the world to protest climate change and the factors that cause it. Other leftist groups offer forums like the Antifa Café, where antifascists meet to discuss issues such as civil rights, especially those related to patriarchy and discrimination. Austrian Marxists also organize an annual Anti-Capitalist Conference, which includes a series of speakers and demonstrations in response to capitalism and economic injustice.

One of the main rivals of the radical left in Austria, especially since the 1990s, has been the far-right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party of Austria), or FPÖ. Its candidate Norbert Hoffer garnered enough support to run for President in 2016, but he ultimately lost the race to the independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. Opposition to the FPÖ has increased since the party gained prominence in the Austrian government through a coalition agreement, and Austria became “the only western country in Europe with a far-right presence in government,” according to The Guardian (18 December 2017).

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